This time of year, with heat and humidity it is not unusual for people to experience swelling in the hands and feet.
Fluid retention or edema is swelling caused by the abnormal buildup of fluid in the body. The fluid collects under the skin within the tissues that are outside of the circulatory system. Edema is most common in the feet and legs, but it can occur in the hands, arms, face, abdomen, and around the lungs. Affected areas of the body may ache or feel stiff.
Typical causes include the body’s reaction to hot weather and hormones associated with the menstrual cycle or pregnancy.
Mild swelling of feet and hands may occur when first exposed to hot and humid weather. Swelling occurs when the blood supply to the skin increases which also radiates heat; fluid moves out of the blood vessels and into the tissues causing swelling.
Standing up for long periods of time allows fluid to ‘pool’ in the tissues of the lower leg.
Certain prescription drugs, including birth control pills, high blood pressure medications, corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Motrin are known to cause fluid retention.
Water retention can happen from too much sodium or sugar in the body, poor circulation, thyroid problems, poor lymphatic drainage and obesity.
Sitting for long periods of time without movement such as riding in a car or a plane for several hours cause fluid to pool. Make sure to stretch your legs and move around. If you also get leg cramps drink water with electrolytes and use Homeopathic Leg Cramps (Hyland) during your trip.
There’s a difference between pitting and non-pitting edema. If you apply pressure to the swollen area and your finger leaves an indentation, you have pitting edema. Non-pitting edema, on the other hand, does not leave a mark when you press your finger into it.
If you notice signs of pitting edema, see your doctor as soon as you can so he/she can do some tests to evaluate for:
Blood clot: One of these in a deep vein can cause edema in the region of the clot. This is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If a clot is present in one leg, edema may be present in just one leg.
Congestive Heart Failure: If your heart is too weak to pump blood around your body as it should, fluid will build up in your tissue. Many people with heart problems get swelling in their feet, ankles and legs.
Kidney Disease: It’s your kidneys job to get rid of extra salt and water from your body. If they aren’t working right, you can develop high blood pressure and pitting edema.
Liver disease: If blood isn’t flowing normally through your liver, edema can form in your lower legs.
Lung Disease: If the pressure in your heart or lungs gets too high because of a disease like COPD and emphysema, pitting edema can show up in your legs or feet.
Vein problems: If your veins have trouble bringing blood back up from your feet to your heart, it can start to pool in your feet and ankles. Extra fluid leaks out of your blood vessels and into nearby tissue.
Once you have seen your medical doctor and the cause of your fluid retention is determined schedule an appointment with your Holistic Practitioner. Do not take any supplements without proper guidance particularly if you are pregnant or have a serious health concern.
Some of the recommendations can include:
Reducing your salt intake. This means not only to cut down on table salt, but also salt (sodium) containing foods like chips, pickles, soy sauce, olives, ham, salami and bacon. Many processed and packaged foods are also high in sodium. Also make sure you are not overdoing sugar consumption this includes alcoholic beverages, sweet treats, fruit juices and over-eating sweet or dried fruits.
Then make sure you are drinking enough pure water. Dehydration or over-hydration can lead to fluid retention. Many people believe that consuming water will make edema worse. But it’s just the opposite; dehydration causes your body to hang on to fluid. Many individuals decrease their water consumption to decrease how often they need to urinate. However, water helps your body flush out toxins and salt.
Eat foods that act as a natural diuretic, including asparagus, parsley, beets, grapes, green beans, leafy greens, pineapple, pumpkin, onion, leeks, and garlic. Some of these foods may interact with certain medications so check with your pharmacist.
Diuretics, sometimes called water pills, help rid your body of salt (sodium) and water. Most work by making your kidneys release more sodium into your urine. The sodium then takes water with it from your blood. Diuretics should never be used to achieve weight loss.
Taking a natural diuretic is helpful such as: The Dandelion root works as a natural diuretic and also prevents the body from getting rid of potassium. Also, Burdock root, Hibiscus, celery seed extract and Apple cider vinegar can be beneficial.
Butcher’s broom is an herb often used for improving circulation. It has been most often used as a diuretic and blood vessel toner. The root is approved for use by the German Commission E to treat chronic venous insufficiency, giving it status as a highly effective herb.
Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that is important for red blood cell formation, protein metabolism, brain function, and immune health. It also regulates fluid balance and may help reduce water retention.
Get moving to increase your circulation and reduce fluid retention. Start simple and gradually work up to exercise that is more strenuous. You may notice swelling increases immediately after exercise, but in the long run it will help your lymph and circulatory system become more efficient in draining the fluid. You want to keep the blood flowing in your legs so that fluid won’t pool and cause swelling. Aim to get up and move around at least 5 times per day or more, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.
Seeing a massage therapist or physical therapist can be helpful, as they manually move the fluid out of the tissues. Check with your medical doctor first to see if it’s OK.
When possible, elevate feet and ankles while sitting or lying down and stay in a cool environment. Compression stockings, sleeves, or gloves can keep pressure on the swollen area to stop fluid from building up. Make sure they are fitted correctly.
Jane Jansen Holistic Practitioner
Tree of Life Wellness Center 508-336-4242
Host Holistic Healthline Radio